Interview with Comrade Ravi Nambiar, President, All India Voltas Employees Federation
As a newspaper and organisation that is partisan to the workers and toilers, we have been asking the leaders of the working people as to how the toilers of India view the reforms that were started 20 years ago. Whether the working class and people have benefitted from these reforms or have suffered? In the 16-31 October issue, we had begun this series with an interview of the General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar party of India, Comrade Lal Singh. In previous issues of the paper, we have published interviews with the leaders of the unions of the banking and port sectors and of the loco pilots, insurance, Central and Western Railway Motormen’s Association, postal employees and of leaders of workers in various sectors of the economy. In this issue, we bring you further interviews with the leaders of workers of other sectors of the economy.
MEL Correspondent: What has been the impact on India of the privatization and liberalization policies introduced by the then Finance Minister, Manmohan Singh, 20 years ago?
Ravi Nambiar (RN): Other countries have benefitted from these policies. Our country was previously a manufacturing and agriculture based economy. But now most of the manufacturing has been taken over by China. Many manufacturing units have closed down because it is cheaper to import good from China. In Mumbai, several engineering goods companies have closed down.
Take the case of Voltas itself. We have closed down a lot of our units. We are now importing air conditioning units from China and assembling it here. In Thane there was a full scale assembly line manufacturing Room-air conditioners. It used to employ 500 workers. Now this unit has been shut down.
Take the case of Usha fans. At one time it was the largest fan manufacturer in India. Today we are importing fans from China.
People are losing their jobs. Youngsters have got skills but don’t get jobs. Even if they get a job, it is on contract. For every 100 entrants into the labor market, there are only 10 jobs available.
India, given its population, should be a big manufacturing base and self-reliant. Previously, in Voltas, our material handling division used to produce goods with our own technology. Now we have collaboration with a German company KION.
In Voltas, there used to be 3500 unionized employees. Now there are only 600. Similarly for Blue Star which has only 400 employees left.
In agriculture also growth is not there. In America and the West, agriculture is heavily subsidized. As a result, apples and grapes from California are now sold in Mumbai. What will happen to our own farmers?
India is a big market where the other developed countries dump their goods.
So, overall the result of the policies has been that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Now the government wants to remove even the few subsidies it is giving to the working people.
MEL Correspondent: What should be done?
Today a worker on contract earns Rs 6,000 per month. How will he grow? How will he manage a family withy such a low salary? The Government should pass a law guaranteeing a minimum wage.
Also there should be a limit on salaries paid to the bosses. Today the top management is drawing exorbitantly high salaries. With the money saved from this, the salaries of workers can be raised.
The government should ensure that everyone gets a job. It should provide maximum subsidy to manufacturing units.